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Advertising Fraud Dictionary: 10 Terms You Must Know

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There’s a lot of terminology in the massive world of ad fraud. With ad fraud expected to grow exponentially, so do its associated terminologies. Trying to remember what each term or acronym means can be extremely frustrating.

Luckily for you, we’ve made this handy dictionary of common ad fraud terms you can use the next time you need to cut through the jargon and find out what they really mean in terms of your business. Start here to begin defining and tackling your ad fraud problems!

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Here are some of the most common ad fraud terms:

1. Ad Fraud

What is ad fraud? Ad fraud is the practice of viewing, clicking, converting, or generating false interactions with any web asset for the sole purpose of earning money directly or indirectly.

These actions are solely profit-driven and have no ties to the actual content of the advertising. Fraud can involve bots, malware, humans, or a combination, depending on the end goals of the fraudsters. Read the Ad Fraud 101 eBook!

2. Affiliate Marketing Fraud

Affiliate marketing is a marketing avenue in which businesses pay affiliates who can draw in new visitors or customers. Generally, the affiliate receives some sort of kickback for every new action generated, which can be in the form of impressions, clicks, leads, or eCommerce purchases. 

Affiliate marketing fraud aims to cheat merchants, buyers, or legitimate affiliates through the use of misleading or fraudulent activities to earn illegitimate commissions.  Read the Affiliate Marketing Fraud 101 eBook!

3. Bots/Botnets

Short for “robot,” a bot  is an automated software program built to carry out a specific task. Bots do jobs that most people would find too repetitive or time-consuming, like answering chat questions easily found on the FAQ page or updating numbers like stock prices at preset intervals. 

Unethical programmers can re-tool bots for malicious purposes in a variety of ways; often designing malicious bots to serve malware, take over networks, steal information, plagiarize content, and steal ad spend from unsuspecting online advertisers. Bots usually mimic normal activity and can be hard for advertisers to detect. 

Botnets are one of the most common threats of bot fraud. It is a collection of bots that work simultaneously to perform a certain task, usually for malicious intent. Botnets are usually responsible for DDoS attacks.

4. Brand Safety

The term used to protect the reputation of a brand from having its ads associated with questionable or inappropriate content. What makes it difficult is that each brand will have different tolerances for what they consider to be safe.

For example, what Disney considers brand safe is different than what Victoria Secrets would consider safe.

5. Click Fraud

Pay Per Click or Cost Per Click advertising is where an advertiser can place their digital advertisements onto a site or network and they are only charged when someone clicks on their ad.

Fraudsters take advantage of this type of marketing by using bots, malware, or humans to click on ads to make money. In some cases, click fraud is committed by competitors who are trying to deplete the competing company’s advertising budget.

6. Click Farm

A click farm is a fraud organization that leverages large groups of cheap workers to manually click on paid ads online. Like their bot counterparts, human click farms wreak havoc on the digital advertising ecosystem.

Click farms have people clicking on ads with no intention of converting. They just visit sites and rack up worthless impressions. Click farms may leverage form bots to fill out forms with bogus information, generating false leads, and creating a real nightmare for online advertisers who need reliable leads.

7. Cookie Stuffing

Cookie stuffing is a sub-area of affiliate marketing fraud. Cookies are a big part of tracking web traffic and activities, but cookie stuffing uses this tool illegitimately to tag users.

Fraudsters who cookie stuff, tag web users with cookies from unrelated websites that they did not visit without permission. These stuffed cookies affect how the activities of users are seen online. If, for example, an affiliate marketer directs a customer to make a purchase, the cookies will link back to the fraudster, who will receive credit for the sale.

8. Domain Spoofing

Domain spoofing is the act of driving fraudulent traffic to an illegitimate domain and making it appear as if that traffic comes from a trusted domain. Many advertisers build lists of trusted domains.

When the fraudster spoofs a domain on that list, their traffic will be accepted. Another way is to use a "look-a-like" domain (aka URL substitution) to trick a user into visiting their site or accepting their traffic because their name looks like a trusted domain.


Invalid traffic, often known as IVT, refers to any form of web traffic that is derived from a non-human source. In some cases, this kind of traffic exists for a good reason, like search engine crawlers. However, most of the time, IVT is used to refer to fraudulent traffic. 

IVT comes in a few different forms, including GIVT & SIVT:

General Invalid Traffic, or GIVT, refers to bots, crawlers, spiders, or any non-human traffic routed from a data center IP address. GIVT can also apply to activity-based filtration or browsers that pre-render pages. Most of the time, GIVT is easy to identify and exclude from results. 

SIVT stands for Sophisticated Invalid Traffic. SIVT techniques are far more challenging to detect. This can include bots that closely mimic human traffic, hijacked devices, invalid proxy traffic, or cooking manipulation techniques, like stuffing.

10. Lead Generation Fraud

Lead generation fraud is a subset of advertising fraud where fraudsters create fake leads for companies operating to collect money. This lead gen fraud can have a disastrous impact on a company’s ROI for their online and affiliate marketing campaigns.

In order to commit lead generation fraud, a fraudster will use a bot, malware, or humans to fill in the lead forms using stolen lead information, in order to bypass detection. It is very common to face TCPA violations when reaching out to these bad leads, creating a myriad of issues for the advertiser.

What Now?

Knowing the basics of ad fraud and its many subsets is vital for your business to thrive. Still, want to know more about ad fraud? See our entire Anura Ad Fraud Glossary or claim your free trial with an expert now!


This article has been updated for 2022.

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